26 March 2006

2004 Chalone Vineyard Monterey County Chardonnay

I'm reading Jeremiah Tower's California Dish : What I Saw (and Cooked) at the American Culinary Revolution. Like Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, it's a look at the sex, drugs, and rock & roll atmosphere of fine dining back in the late 70s and 80s. Bourdain's book was angrier; Tower's book is somewhat more fun, and even includes recipes featuring marijuana. Bourdain's book goes all over the place, Tower focuses mostly on the birth of California Cusine.

Anyway, there's a brief passage about trying to start a culinary arts program at Antioch College in Ohio in 1980, and he mentions the committee going through a case of Dick Graff's Chalone Chardonnay, Graff being the founder and chairman of Chalone Vineyard. He didn't say much about the wine, but I'd been impressed with other wines he'd mentioned that I've tried.

A few hours after reading that, I was doing the regular trip from grocery story to wine shop, and while browsing around the racks I came across the 2004 Chalone Vineyard Monterey County Chardonnay. I've always enjoyed serendipity, and for $12 it was hard to pass up.

I cracked it open today, and served it with a French bread pizza. No, I'm not talking about the Stouffer's frozen variety we all loved as kids. I took about a foot of a French bread loaf and sliced it lengthwise. On each half I smeared a generous portion of pesto, topped it with shredded mozzarella, sautéed cremini mushrooms, grilled orange bell pepper strips, and topped off with a healthy portion of herbed goat cheese. Bake at 350° F for ten to fifteen minutes, and slide it under the broiler for a few minutes if desired. I'm in heaven right now, and my breath is atrocious.

I did sample the wine before the garlic bomb, and found it to be quite nice. It's not overly oaked, but instead has a crisp and firmly acidic flavor to it. It's a Chardonnay with some body and sass that will leave your lips tingling for a few seonds after every sip.

1 comment:

Fredric Koeppel said...

Hey, Benito, the Chalone chardonnay you tried is the fairly recently launched Monterey line of inexpensive products under the Chalone label. The wine that Tower was talking about in his book is the Chalone Estate Chardonnay, one of California's legendary wines, as is the Chalone Estate Pinot Noir. The price is usually about $24 to $30.